- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Allen Lane; UK ed. edition (5 May 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1846145937
- ISBN-13: 978-1846145933
- Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.5 x 23.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 285,176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Criminal: The Truth About Why People Do Bad Things Paperback – 5 May 2016
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Crime is mostly opportunistic, and the best way to reduce it is to lessen the opportunities for committing crimes. Gash provides some compelling evidence in favour of this view ... Accessible yet well-referenced ... Gash mentions many cardinal facts that are often missed altogether, or whose significance is insufficiently appreciated. (Theodore Dalrymple The Times)
Serious, but so startling that it is hugely readable, too. (James McConnachie, The Times Books of the Year)
An arresting take on law-breaking ... At once detailed and readable, Criminal shows crime is as complicated as most kinds of human behaviour. (Andrew Neather Evening Standard)
Rigorously analytical (Dominic Lawson Sunday Times)
A richly researched, supremely sane discussion of the causes of and ways of preventing crime ... Gash's important book may well change your attitude to criminality and the justice system (PD Smith Guardian)
Tom Gash takes eleven myths favoured by the right or left and does an effective job in demolishing them. By the end you might be persuaded that we don't need more bobbies on the beat or that crime, despite shocking headlines, isn't rising (Robbie Millen The Times)
About the Author
Tom Gash is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Government and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Mannheim School of Criminology at the London School of Economics. A regular contributor to debates on public policy and current affairs, he writes for the Independent, Guardian and Financial Times, and speaks frequently on television and radio advocating improvements in crime policy and wider public sector management. Tom has been an adviser to a range of crime policy reviews, including the Flanagan Review of Policing and the UK Drug Policy Commission.
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The book gives no end of food for thought. If there is an quibble, then it is in his rhetorical presentation of slaying myths. The evidence does not allow him to slay various myths conclusively - for example, that biology causes crime. What it does do - he himself admits this in the chapter on the relationship between police numbers and crime, - is that the evidence does not unambiguously support widely accepted claims about crime. So for instance he dismisses the link between biology and crime as a myth when in fact there is plenty of good evidence to support such a link. It is that the evidence used to support it is not conclusive in all instances and can be subject to confounding factors. But there is enough evidence to make it unwise to dismiss the link as a mere myth. He makes no mention of the strong relationship between gender and violent crime - 90 per cent of violent offences are committed by men.
The book is also a bit weak on motivation and why people commit crime. He is probably right to argue that much of crime is opportunistic and quite simple changes - such as better car security - can have a significant impact. The example of why the making of the wearing of motorcycle helmets mandatory in Germany produced a dramatic and permanent fall in motorcycle theft is a fascinating one. The question of why people commit violent crime is largely passed over.
But overall I think this is a really valuable book. The arguments are presented in a calm, concise, readable manner, free from any overt ideological axe to grind - and are hugely thought provoking, too. Reading it on the train to and from work, I found myself gazing out of the window often, pondering the insights the author has to offer. The book is a refreshing antidote to both screaming tabloid headlines and irritating liberal platitudes. Above all else, the book stresses the need for evidence-informed policy. Too much policy is informed by a negative loop whereby politicians and the public outbid one another to produce knee-jerk and poorly thought through responses to crime. There needs to be more books like this one.
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